Powered By Blogger

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

The Good Old Days--maybe...


Available in print and e-book
i-tunes, Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble

More memory lane writing for February, a month I get used to skipping, because the obligation only comes around every four years. Recently, I completed my 79th trip around Our Local Star. So it happens that many of my elder friends spend a lot of time wishing they were 50-60 years younger. 

Sorry to say, but contrary to a lot of what my same-age friends seem to remember, youth wasn't all Golden Days. 

Here's a case in point, a memory I have of a now mostly forgotten blizzard which happened in Massachusetts in February in 1969. This was a year in which my husband had graduated from college but instead of entering the work world, we'd fallen for the siren song of those days and dropped out. He was working in a leather shop for a pittance and I was working a few days a week as a nurse's aide in a small hospital about an hour's commute away. 

We lived in a cabin in the woods near the Quabbin reservoir, which, in those days, was pretty empty of people, although there were a lot of deer, rabbits and raccoons. We had 1930's indoor plumbing, a woodstove and a kerosene heater, which made the house a lot more "modern" than others in the area.  

Other college friends had migrated to the big city of Boston (and vicinity) and were working 9-5 jobs. Sometimes we went in to visit them over weekends. On this particular Sunday, we left late, around 12, I think. It was snowing--but in those days that was not unusual or even a subject of much concern. A big storm was said to be coming in, but we knew the drive back to western Massachusetts well. It was two and half hours, give or take, to dirt road that led to our little house. 

We piled into the car. Our son, then 3 years old, was crying at leaving his same age friend and heading back to the no-kids world of the country. My husband took the wheel, I sat beside him, and we all headed out. First, we'd have to travel north on the 128 beltway before intersecting the secondary road which would take us much of the way across the state to our cabin in the woods. At once the wind picked up, blowing mightily. 

About 4 weeks later, the bump was revealed to be:

Snow blasted down. It was crystalline, and began drifting across the road, making it hard to see. If you remember old Beetle windshield wipers, you understand they were having a hard time keeping up, so now and then it was hard to see. The traffic, always heavy on the beltway, began to slow. The big cars nearby began to skid and wobble, struggling to maintain their lanes, lanes which were rapidly becoming little but the tracks of vehicle ahead of you. 

It was quickly becoming apparent that we weren't going to escape Boston. On every side, people were heading for the exits. Trucks fishtailed and then jack-knifed, but, intrepid Beetle drivers that we were, we maneuvered around them. Still, anxiety increased every moment because there we were in the middle of it--Daddy, Mommy and little boy, all within this German eggshell. And, oh, yes, I haven't mentioned it yet, but I was eight months pregnant. We were beginning to get cold too. It was the old VW tale about the single heating vent burning up the driver's left foot, while icicles formed on the passengers. 

The wind was howling, pushing the trucks. The wipers were no longer keeping up. Nothing to see but blowing snow and red tail lights as ahead, people braked for obstacles we couldn't see. Finally, my husband saw a familiar exit, the way to his parent's house in Lexington. This was problematic, as we currently weren't on good terms. Still, it seemed the only choice. We dove into the exit.

Now there was another problem--drifts were clogging the ramp. The plows, always diligent in these populated areas, couldn't keep up. Cars ahead were getting stuckwhile trying to exit the exit! The heavy cars of those days wallowed and skidded. People were getting out of their cars in that whipping wind, hoping to push themselves free. The little V-Dub became bogged down too. 

"Get out and push!" my husband yelled. So there I was, in my full-length dress, high boots and big belly, scarf tightly wrapped around my head, pushing the car. When he found traction and surged ahead, I fell flat on my face into the snow. He managed to maneuver around the stalled cars higher on the ramp, until he encountered the penultimate drift. His forward progress came to a halt.

I trudged back to the car amid wind and blinding white, shivering from the snow still stuck to my bare legs. When I arrived, he jumped out, cried, "You drive  now!" There had been only one car ahead of us, but they were making slow forward progress toward the main road. No waiting there! You just had to merge and pray the crawling cars saw you coming. 

So through that final, high drift, with me on and off the clutch, rocking the car, and with him pushing, we broke free and reached the road. He wore his prized, very cool hat, an old fedora--but this blew off, and was last seen sailing above 128 into a wall of white. 

Now at the top, we paused, changed drivers, and went the final few miles to safety, starting and stopping and negotiating our way through intersections where the lights were not working, and past many, many disabled, abandoned vehicles.

No cell phones in those days, so there were, on the steps of the Lexington house, where. blessedly, the door opened to us. Once inside, I had one of those false labor episodes, which are rather painful. I remember my mother-in-law calling a pediatrician who lived close by, who said he would make his way over if this didn't resolve, but, of course, once I was warm and had changed my clothes, it eventually went away.    

We were in that house for three days, because that's how long it took for all the abandoned vehicles to be cleared from the exit/entrances. Our son was happy to be at his grandparents because there were two teen Aunts to play with him, although, naturally, the elders were definitely ready for us to leave by the time we did. Driving around on the second day, hoping to find an opening, we'd passed by " our" exit, and seen the grill of the car that had been behind us, nearly buried under a monster drift that completely had encased it. 

When we reached home, we were delighted that our dirt road had been cleared. My husband forced the car into the drift at our driveway, and then we half-swam half-crawled our way over chest-high snow to the house, towing our little boy and a suitcase. The cats were glad to see us, as their kibble had long since run out and the house was darn cold. The old kerosene "furnace," by itself, kept the place in the vicinity of 45 degrees, so the plumbing hadn't frozen. With a fire started in the wood stove in time we were warm again.

~Juliet Waldron

Originally posted at: